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A treaty for our time?

Submitted by on 3/11/09 – 20:13No Comment

The Treaty of Lisbon

The Lisbon treaty has become an almost mythical document which has had the power to defeat whole states.

To some it is the natural evolution of a system which created by the member states has simply become to unwieldy to operate correctly.  It’s a correctional document to allow the system to function better, to better state what is EU responsibility and to better provide a single voice to the EU outside of the Union which the world needs.

To those who dislike, even hate the document it’s a step in the wrong direction towards a European Union which subverts and even reduces the role of the nation state.

The country which showed how misunderstood the treaty is has to be Ireland.  During the initial referendum it was shown how ignorant many were as to the reason for the treaty and what it did.  The creation of a European Army, Abortion Rights, intrusion into national tax policies etc. all showed their heads as falsities promoted by those with an anti-European agenda.  It took a year of education and promotion of the facts before asking the Irish people to vote again.  A decision which the anti-Europeans claimed was anti-democratic.  A no means no was the response.  However a no is not a no when the facts are not known was the response.  How can you vote no on something you haven’t even read?

In the UK representative politics removed the need for a referendum which was a good thing as the UK is one of the most ill informed nations in the Union as to what it does.  A anti-European press and right wing political parties are keen to keep the disinformation going to promote their own views, many of which are based on historical fallacies and past glories of empire.  The UK is often seen as the screaming child at the back being pulled along by it’s European mother.  It’s seen as a country more interested in the flag waving nationalist past than a full member of the new reality of European politics.  The anti treaty groups in the UK put many of its hopes in the right wing policies of the British Tory party; a party which recently left the mainstream of European Parliament groups and created  a new one with nationalist, homophobes and SS sympathisers from the central and east Europe.  They hoped the Tories would promote a referendum claiming the treaty was nothing more than window dressing for the failed EU Constitution.  However unlike the former document which sought to consolidate all former treaties, the new one simply concentrates on the important factors needed to get the EU working in the future.  This was not something they wanted to hear and until the last was insisting on a referendum.

The Polish right wing president also sought to keep the treaty from becoming law.  He decided to hold out until the Irish had voted yes before he did so and surprisingly did so very quickly.  He was not keen to see it come into force despite the wishes of the Polish government and Prime Minister.

The most difficult problem has come from the nationalist president in the  Czech Republic which sought every opportunity to stop the treaty.  Like Poland the President was not in union with the wishes of the government and sought to halt it.  Constitutionally he could hold out until the last day of his presidency if he wished.  Right wing senators sought to halt the treaty in the courts and the president sought certainties German citizens would not reclaim property theirs before their expulsion from Czechoslovakia after the Second World War.  Whether he has the legal power to amend a treaty rather than the government was subject to question but the other states were keen to get the document signed and agreed to his demands.  Once the court decided the document was not designed to strip away Czech sovereignty he also signed fairly quickly to the surprise of many in Europe.

So as we go to press, the document is now signed by all and has become European Union Law.  International Law.  So what’s next?

Well the hard work now begins to find a permanent chairman or president for the European Council.  Previously this was a rotating presidency between the member states of 6 months.  The exact role hasn’t yet been agreed.  Will it be a position of importance to help promote the Union to the world?  Someone who will stop traffic and command handshakes in Washington and Beijing?  Or will it be someone who is an administrator, someone who could help run the Council for their tenure and keep the thing ticking along?  It’s still to be decided, however the German and French governments seem to be in agreement to who they would like even if holding close to their chest presently.

One thing he or she will not be is a European President!  Some newspapers have used that term too often and it’s beginning to sink into the public thinking.  The EU will have three presidents.  One for the Parliament, one for the Commission and one for the Council.  Those who think the role is governor of all should go back and see how the EU works.  The Council is only one part of the system, not the whole!

The other important role is the Foreign Representative.  There is a possibility this  role could be as important, if not more so than the President of the Council.  This role combines the former commissioner on external relations with the High Representative’s office.  Whoever has this position will be the face of the EU around the world.  It is this office will be at the head of promoting the EU to other states, providing a single agreed voice and negotiate with them.

The Right wing in the UK could still throw a spanner in the works.  They are likely to be the government in the next year and despite the division of responsibility the treaty states will use the newspapers and TV to argue for ‘repatriation of powers’.  Given that those powers the EU has was given to it by the member states to act more efficiently that when handled by themselves, it’s likely the UK’s voice in the Union and the world will reduce as a result which is disappointing.  Given their association with extreme and conservative groups in the EP, Britain may be heading towards a bleak isolated future.

The US, China and other states are keen to see a united Europe speaking with one voice and not two, three or even former EU members shouting from the edges.  The American presidency under Obama is one that the EU wanted after the Bush years but the US has shown its intolerance of a fragmented European voice.  Hopefully the treaty can resolve that.  Russia is a trickier subject.  Russia often treats trade and politics with individual states rather than the Union as a whole to promote it’s views.  Disagreements are made with Poland, Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia over trade rather than with the EU and agrees energy pipelines with member states when a united energy policy should be promoting the interest of all the Union’s citizens.

The future of the EU is now heading to a new path.  A smaller commission to run the Union on behalf of the members.  A stable and single person to manage the Council and chair the meetings, a new representative for external, dare we say, foreign affairs, and a better way to make decisions based on a new qualified majority voting in many more areas.

It’s single failure to promote and market itself to its citizens still has to be made and made more urgently and strongly now there are many more politicians who want to see the EU torn apart and fragmented destroying the dreams of past generations in favour of political fashion.  This is a fresh start for the EU.  Let’s hope it does not squander it and uses it’s well.

The Treaty of Lisbon at europa.eu

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